Reflecting on a month to remember

Historic Racing News

From Goodwood to Budapest – it’s been a busy time of it for Dickie Meaden and the rest of the historic racing fraternity

You know you’ve had a busy month when it’s actually a week into the next one before you’ve had a chance to come up for air.

That’s what September’s like in historic racing. 

Traditionally it kicks-off with a low-key meeting in the south of England called the Goodwood Revival (you may have heard of it), followed the very next weekend by the Spa Six Hours. For the preparers – many of whom run the same cars at both meetings – this means an almost instant turnaround and burning a colossal quantity of midnight oil.

As if those two meetings aren’t enough, this year the historic racing community rounded-off September by heading to Hungary to take part in Central Europe’s very first international historic race meeting: the Hungaroring Classic, organised by Peter Auto.

Being a jammy so-and-so I had rides at all three meetings: sharing a lovely little Alfa Romeo Giulietta Ti with Steve Soper in Revival’s St Mary’s Trophy, sharing a GT40 with Nick Padmore and Martin O’Connell at Spa, and driving no fewer than four different cars (Elan 26R, Chevron B42, Lola T70 Mk3B and Cologne Capri RS3100) in Hungary.

Better to be born Dickie than rich, that’s what I say.

Highlights? Well, my battle with Mike Jordan in the St Mary’s race is something I’ll never forget. As much for seeing the smiles it seemed to put on everyone’s faces as for my own few moments of glory. Spa was tougher, thanks to a freak issue with an errant wheel weight that forced me to pit from a comfortable third position in the early phase of the race. Finding the fix eventually cost us almost 10 minutes, wrecking our race before it had truly begun, but the fightback from 95th place was epic. I think I made up a little over 70 positions in a hundred minutes of racing before pitting to hand over to Nick Padmore, who clawed us towards the pointy end before he handed over to Martin O’Connell. With the latter phase of the race hamstrung by repeated safety car periods Martin couldn’t make the progress he was clearly capable of doing, but when running free he was hunting down the cars ahead like a man possessed. Our eventual 12th place felt like a minor victory after such a soul-destroying start and reinforced my belief that there’s no tougher or more demanding race in historic motor sport.

Watch: Save of the season

And Hungary? When you’ve been racing for 25-years it’s rare to visit a new circuit. Especially one that hosts a Grand Prix. Hungaroring is a special place. Ultra-technical, narrow and with very little run-off, it’s quite a challenge. The Lola felt at least two sizes too big, likewise the Capri, but the little Elan and Chevron F2 car in particular were massive fun.

The former did its usual and had a right old dust-up with the Cobras, E-types, Mustangs and 911s that form the bulk of the Sixties Endurance grid. After two hours racing we finished fifth overall, first in class and first non-Cobra home.

The latter blew my mind. Slicks and wings bring the circuit to life, turning the awkward sequences of lefts and rights into mighty, majestic, mouth-parching tests of flat-in-fourth nerve. Overtaking is as hard as we’ve all been led to believe, but that just means you have to make the most of those few opportunities you do get. To race a current F1 car at Hungaroring must be insane.  

September’s schedule is somewhat freakish, but it’s also a graphic illustration of just how vibrant and popular the historic racing scene is right now. I was far from the only driver who took part in all three events, and judging by the crowds (24,000 at Hungaroring!) the sound and action has tremendous spectator appeal, too. Yes, geeky men with beards and Rohan trousers still roam the paddocks, but families are very much the order of the day, which is brilliant to see.

If you’re lucky enough to be able to race historics, or simply love watching and being around old racing cars, the manic month of September reminds us we’ve never had it so good.

Photo: Peter Auto

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